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Schools ‘should open everyday and have police officers to tackle gangs’

Schools should open seven days a week, all year round, and have dedicated police officer attached to them to tackle gang violence, the children's commissioner has said.

Anne Longfield, children's commissioner for England, has released her "children's manifesto", which suggests opening schools in the evenings and on weekends would help prevent children being preyed on in the streets by gang members.

She said providing activities like drama, sport, or arts, would have benefits for young people and their families.

The manifesto also argues that security in schools and neighbourhoods should be a priority for any government, and says schools should have police officers attached to them.

Image: Anne Longfield, the children's commissioner

In the manifesto's foreward, Ms Longfield says children are "routinely frightened" in today's world.

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She said: "They tell me about being chased in the streets, videoed by strangers, frightened to walk to school, avoiding being out after dark.

"Many of the people and places that used to be available to kids in the past, the fabric of a child's society – from someone to greet you when you got home from school, to welcoming parks and clubs – no longer exist. We must fix this."

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Her manifesto calls for political backing of six pledges, including keeping children active and safe on the streets. It suggests increasing youngsters' involvement in civic and social activities and giving them alternatives to mobile phone use.

"In more and more areas of the country, gangs operate openly in streets and parks, and groom increasingly younger children," the manifesto says.

"Those children with most time on their hands – those attending part-time school such as pupil referral units, for instance, or not getting on at home, disengaged and marginalised – are easy pickings for gangs and other trouble makers.

"But any child may find themselves at a loose end after school: the school day has not kept up with changes in family working patterns which see children returning home to empty houses.

"The Children's Commissioner believes all schools should stay open in evenings and weekends and throughout school holidays, to provide a range of activities from sports to arts, drama to digital citizenship; and this could even include high quality youth support.

"The benefits to such an approach would be wide-ranging: for children, their families and their communities.

"It would broaden access to subjects being 'squeezed' out of more academic curricula, it would help parents with childcare and be good for children's mental health and social skills."

She calls for neighbourhood police officers to be attached to schools, park walls to be lowered so adults can see in, and for more lights and more CCTV.

Thousands of youngsters are part of criminal gangs
Image: The commissioner is concerned vulnerable people are easy targets

The manifesto sets out promises for better support for families, decent housing and quicker access to mental health services, as well as a counsellor in every school and funding for special educational needs.

Ms Longfield issued a sharp warning to MPs about their priorities, saying: "I've heard more political conversation about HS2, water nationalisation and tax cuts – and, of course, Brexit – than about children."

She said society should be "ashamed that there are literally millions of kids in England not having the childhood a decent society would want".

At the end of last month, a report found that almost a quarter of a million children in tRead More – Source

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